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4A STATE: Rancho knocks Gorman down, Gaels rebound for fifth straight crown

RENO — Bishop Gorman’s baseball team absorbed Rancho’s punch to the gut, and came back with its own knockout blow.

After the Rams knocked off the four-time defending state champs, 4-2, to force a second, winner-take-all game, Gorman (36-4) wasted little time taking control in the nightcap, blasting Rancho 13-0 in five innings for the school’s fifth-consecutive title at the Class 4A state baseball championships at Aces Ballpark.

“The first game they had a lead and we were kind of fighting back all game, so we wanted to make sure we got a lead and had them chasing us,” said Gorman senior Johnny Field, who — along with senior Neil Lawhorn — was part of the last four titles.

The Gaels scored twice in the top of the first inning to put the Rams (33-5) on their heels right away.

With one out, Field crushed a ball off the fence in left-center field for an RBI triple.

One out later, Cory Welch singled through the left side to make it 2-0.

That seemed to sap Rancho’s energy, and the Gaels sent 11 batters to the plate in the second, scoring six runs to help seal the game.

Field had a three-run double to right center to highlight the inning.

“He’s our leader this year and one of our leaders for a couple years now,” Gorman coach Chris Sheff said of Field, who was 3-for-4 in the deciding game. “You’d expect him if we’re going to win to be the guy that carries us. Just two enormous hits.”

Cory Welch went the distance for the Gaels, throwing a three-hitter for his second win of the state tournament. Welch threw four innings in a 14-1 win over Reno on Thursday.

“The first game we didn’t really play with as much intensity as we should have; I guess maybe knowing we had a second game just in case,” Field said. “But the second game we turned it on because we knew it was do-or-die. Our seniors didn’t want to go out with a loss.”

Rancho, which was making its first appearance in a state baseball tournament since 1977, forced a second game with a victory earlier on Saturday in a game that saw more snow flurries than Gorman offense.

Brandon Pletsch allowed four hits in 5 2/3 innings to get the win.

Pletsch gave way to ace Eric Holdren with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth.

Holdren got T.J. White to pop up to shallow right field, where second baseman Josh Gomez made a tumbling catch to end the rally.

Holdren got the first two outs of the seventh before he had to leave after reaching the tournament’s 11-inning limit.

Zak Qualls walked the first batter he faced, then struck out Neil Lawhorn to end the game.

Qualls and Holdren both threw complete games on Friday.

“Brandon wanted the ball, and he’s a competitor,” Rancho coach Tom Pletsch said. “We used Eric and Zak to close the game out,and I believe we’re the only Southern Nevada team to beat Gorman this year, and we’re just thrilled to do that.”

Rancho broke a 1-1 tie in the fourth, scoring three runs on three hits. Scott Koenen led off with a triple and scored on an RBI single by Gabe Chavira. The Rams added a run on an RBI groundout by Roy Sipes, and scored the final run on an error to lead 4-1.

Gorman accounted for only four hits, but five walks and three hit batters gave the Gaels plenty of opportunitie — which were squandered after leaving 10 runners on base, twice with the bases loaded.

“They’ve had a great year, and their kid threw a great game today in Game 1,” Sheff said. “They played a great game, and they’ve had a great season and Tom’s done a great job turning that program around. He’s definitely to be commended.”

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